Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

With GOP Majority, Dems Fighting Losing Battle on Referendum

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

With GOP Majority, Dems Fighting Losing Battle on Referendum

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS - If they ultimately decide to show up, here's the question Democrats want to debate on the Indiana House floor Monday Should lawmakers themselves decide an issue as contentious as right to work without first making it the centerpiece of a campaign cycle, or should voters get a say in the issue through a referendum on November's ballot?

Here's why there's virtually no chance Republicans will let the conversation get framed exactly the way Democrats would like it to: Unlike neighbor Ohio or prime national example California, Indiana is not a state with a constitution that leaves much room for such a step.

Constitutional amendments end up on the ballot, as do local referendums. Not statewide legislative questions, though. All week long, the Indiana General Assembly was dipping its toes - and at some points wading in waist-deep - to a much broader political science debate about representative versus direct democracy.

That is to say, instead of counting on the lawmakers who are elected to cast votes on key issues, direct democracy puts more decisions squarely in the hands of voters. One state that relied heavily on direct democracy was Oregon. Their ballot questions got so complicated that it was part of the reason the state switched to voting by mail, instead of in person.

That move has actually worked out quite well for Oregon. The move toward ballot questions brings up another problem: How do you write questions that don't include an element of bias?

It's possible, but if referendums became regular, hashing out the language would become the new procedural battleground

If they really wanted to, lawmakers could find a way to place the right-towork issue on the November ballot. Then, though, they'd have to answer the question that Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma posed Friday: "Where do you stop on other issues? …

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